Truly enjoying a finely crafted wine is about so much more than just the beauty that lies within the bottle. Being quite a wine buff and having attended many wine shows and tastings, what was always lacking was the true wine experience. I used to blush as crimson as a beautiful rosé when I admitted never having visited our country’s bountiful winelands. Thankfully this was all changed by a truly magical experience. I was blessed to be part of The Magic of Winter group that were whisked off for three days to the Robertson Wine Valley.
Three days of sipping, sharing, living and learning. From never setting foot on a wine farm to immersing myself in five of the Cape’s finest, I consider myself one very lucky first-timer. The charm and hospitality of the wonderful people who own and run these vineyards is something that cannot be felt sitting at a tasting up in Gauteng. It was a weekend of so many firsts and so many spoils.
The Friday began with an early morning wake up to meet the team for coffee and then we were on our way with travel and wine aficionado Jared Ruttenberg as our guide. The sharing and storytelling began immediately as we all got to know each other and before we knew it we had reached our first stop.
Our visit to the picturesque Mont Blois estate was to be a first not only for me but for all of us. We were the first visitors to join winemaker and owner Nina-Mari Bruwer for a tasting in their brand new tasting room. What a special morning it was as we learned about the life and love shared by Nina-Mari and her husband Ernst all while savouring their exceptional wines. Their love for family and tradition comes through strongly in their two earthy and fruity chardonnays. The Kweekkamp and Hoog en Laag 2016 are fresh and delicious. This was followed by one of the most complex chenins I’ve tasted. Their Groot Steen Chenin Blanc 2016 will be bringing me back to this little piece of heaven again and again.
Sadly we couldn’t linger too long as our next stop awaited just outside Ashton. Being very familiar with Zandvliet wines, I was excited to pay a visit to the “Home of Shiraz”. Yet another warm welcome from Lesley Sipambu as we escaped the chilly weather with a warming welcome tipple in the low light of the gorgeous Kalkveld Lounge. Lesley then led us into the underground Muscat tanks where we learnt more about the rich history of the estate. Once we emerged from our exploration, we found ourselves in the blending room where we each got to create our own unique blend. Some mixing and a whole lot of sipping and Sweet Secrets 2019 was born. My perfect blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.Making your own blend is both thirsty and hungry work and we were all salivating for the spread which was waiting back in the Kalkveld Lounge. A hearty lunch of chicken skewers, meatballs, fresh breads, fruit, nuts and cheeses all accompanied by more wine and the most delicious Shiraz jam. It was soon time to hop onto the Wine Valley Safari. The zebra-striped safari vehicle transported us to the next gem on our journey.
We arrived at one of the best of Bonnievale for a tasting which stirred both our minds and our hearts. Weltevrede has created a wine tasting experience which will stay with me for a long time. We were led along a trail of candle-lit corridors until we reached an underground fermentation tank. In silence we were led to our seats by Steyn Fullard who took us through a sensory tasting of their wines and a standout was most definitely the Vanilla Chardonnay. We sat for a long while listening to Steyn’s stories and left feeling inspired and uplifted. These I’ll leave for Steyn to impart as it’s his words and his wines which make the Weltevrede experience.
Just when we thought our adventures were done for the day, we found ourselves at the Montagu Country Hotel. Waiting outside was General Manager, PJ Basson accompanied by a sight right out of the movies. Two beautiful shining American Dream Cars – A 1956 and a 1964 Cadillac Sedan De Ville. We were hurriedly ushered into these two beauties and as they purred into action, we were off chasing the sunset. As the sky turned to a deep purple, we ascended the hill at the end of Piet-se-Pad to the most breath-taking spot. PJ poured us some port which we enjoyed as the sun slowly set.
With our emotions at a high, we descended from our lookout point to check in and take in the day’s adventures before dinner. Our decadent tasting menu was true country hospitality and perfectly reflected the chef’s heart and passion. Borscht, roasted springbok and blue cheese ice cream were just some of the incredible dishes Chef Werner proudly presented to us. With that, it was time to rest up because another wonderful day in the valley was ready to greet us the next morning.
We awoke refreshed and indulged in even more delicious country delights at breakfast and then took a leisurely meander around the rest of the hotel. Soon it was time to leave the comforts of the country and set off on day two of our travels.
Nestled beside the Breede River, floating above the vines, we arrived at the elegant glass tasting room at Esona Boutique Wine Estate. We began our visit on the bright and airy Caryl’s Bistro deck with a chilled glass of rosé. A complete contrast to the next part of our experience as we made our way underground into “The Kuip” for a candlelight vertical tasting and pairing. There is really something mystical about this sort of tasting. You are so fully present and absorbed in the moment. From this special setting, we ascended into the sunshine to indulge in an array of signature platters.
Lunch was soon a delicious memory as we drove along Route 62 to the southernmost tip of the Robertson valley. The foothills of the Langeberg Mountains are where you’ll find Jan Harmsgat Country House. Steeped in both luxury and history, this was to be our home for the night. We were immediately met with warm and welcoming smiles and hugs from General Manager Francois. Surrounded by sweeping views of the valley, there was so much to take in. We were escorted to our rooms which could only be described as gorgeously charming. With the day rapidly ending and dusk on its way, we hopped onto a safari vehicle as Francois took us on a tour of the vineyards and pomegranate groves. With black wildebeest on either side, we ascended to the top of a hill. To say we were left breathless was an understatement. A wine tasting with 360 degree views of the Langeberg Mountains with signature JHG wines and delicious charcuterie boards. The most spectacular way to experience a Cape sunset.A short while later we were all comfortably seated at the fireplace in the chic Just Amy fine-dining restaurant. As we chatted and enjoyed more wine, Jared and I, after much persuasion, entertained everyone with a musical interlude at the piano. The last few notes of Hey Jude filled the room and we sat down to a delightful country dinner – Springbok carpaccio, beef fillet and dark chocolate pecan tart for dessert. Our chatter continued until it was time to retire to our plush loft rooms to rest for our last day in the valley.
We awoke to a lovely sunny morning and were treated to a farm-style breakfast in Just Amy. Eggs benedicts with farm fresh bread and pomegranate honey were just what was needed to get the day started. After some coffee and fresh pomegranate juice it was time to hit the road to our last stop.
Our final taste of the Robertson wine life was a morning spent with Salóme, Sybrand and Grant learning about the history of Lozärn Wines – The Pioneers of Carménère in South Africa. We began with an interactive tasting right in the cellar where all our questions about this unique cultivar were answered. Then it was out into the vineyards where Grant showed us just how to prune the vines for maximum yield. Everything at Lozärn is a science and this comes through in their wines, of which my favourite is definitely their flagship red, Kay’s Legacy 2016 – a gorgeous Bordeaux blend.
Back in the cellar, Grant’s wife Christa had prepared a mouth-watering lunch. We filled our plates with all kinds of savoury and sweet treats and enjoyed our last few moments outside with more delicious Lozärn wine of course.
With our hearts full of love and appreciation for everyone we met on this divine journey, we said farewell to all at Lozärn and to Robertson. Back to Cape Town and then to Joburg I headed with the most amazing memories.
The magic of a trip like this is something every wine lover needs to experience. In winter or in summer, The Robertson Valley has so many secrets to share. Keep an eye out because very soon you’ll be able to share in a very special secret escape of your own.